German Royalty: Friedrich III (1888)

Friedrich (Frederick) was born at Potsdam (1831). He was the son of King Wilhelm I of Prussia. When his father succeeded to the throne of Prussia (1861), Frederick became Crown Prince Frederick William. Frederick was liberal in his political views, uncharacteristic for the Hohenzollerens. He opposed Count von Bismark throught his long term as Chancellor. His liberal views were strngthened by marrying the British Princess Royal Victoria. They hoped to move Germany in liberal direction. Sadly for the future of Germany and Europe in genetal, it was not to be. Friedrich died only a few months after becoming Emperor. For that reason 1888 in Germany is called the year of the three emperors. The imperial crown passed to Friedrich's son, Prince Wilhelm, who had a very different temperment and political leanings.

Parents

Friedrich was the son of King Wilhelm I of Prussia and Princess Marie Louise Augusta of Saxe-Weimar. The mairrage was no love match. Wilhelm had fallen in love with a Polish Princess, but was not allowed to marry her. He was comprled to mary Augusta who dutifully accepted, but with an equal lack of enthusism. As Kaiser and Kaiserina the two avoided each other. They had a completely opposite outlooks on life. The two could hardly spend a few minutes together in a room without arguing.

Wilhelm I

Wilhelm I (1797-1888) was the seventh King of Prussia and the first German Emperor. He asceeded to the Prussian throne in 1861 after his older brother Friedrich William IV died. He was instrumental with the assistance of of the Iron Chancdelor, Count von Bismark, and other advisors in founding the German state in the modern sence--uniting a great diversity of prinipalities under the leadership of Prussia. William was crowned Emperor in 1871 after defeating Emperor Napoleon III in the Framco Prussian War. He and his descendents retained the crown of Prussia. Wilhelm had a very distant relationship with his son and took little interest in him as boy. His major interest was that the boy would grow up to be a good soldier.

Marie Louise Augusta

Wilhelm was ordered to popose to Princess Marie Louise Augusta of Saxe-Weimar and dutifully did so. She accepted, but with an equal lack of enthusism. The two mairred in 1829, but the mairrage was no love match. As Kaiser and Kaiserina the two avoided each other. They had a completely opposite outlooks on life. The two could hardly spend a few minutes together in a room without arguing. The two quarled from the day of their mairrage and tried to live apart as much as possible. Prince Albert when he met them determined that they were both equally responsible. Their personalities clashed. Augusta had been raised in the liberal court of Weimar. She was devoted to literature, music, and art. Few her knew her thought that life in spartan Berlin would be felicitous. She was the primary influence in her son's life and played an important role in aranging the mairage with English Crown Princess Victoria.

Birth

Friedrich was born in 1831 in the Neue Palace at Potsdam (1831).

Siblings

Friedrich has only one sister, Louise who was born in 1838. The ill-feeling between his parents meant that there was not going to be a large family.

Childhood

Friedrich reportedly had a very unhappy childhood, in part because his parents had disliked each other from the day of their mairrage and quarled constantly when together. Friderich ha conventional upbringing. He was supervised in the nursery by nurses and governesses. As he had only one sister, several years younger, he had little company. At age 7 he was entrusted to a military governor and tutor. Friedrich was much closer to his mother than his more distant father. He took after her in may ways. Friedrich especially liked to read. Perhaps as a result, he adopted a liberal outlook.

Childhood Clothes

HBRC had no information on Friedrich's childhood clothes at this time.

Education

We are few details about Friedrich's education at tis time. We do know that military training played an important part of his education.

Great Exposition

Friedrich had few experiences outside Prussia and the German states. When his parents took him to London for the Great Exposition, he was quite lost as Britain was so different. Prince Albert took the opportunity to lecture him about politics and international affairs. Albert had already begun to forsee a dynatic match with the Prussian royal family.

Crown Prince

When his father succeeded to the throne of Prussia in 1861, Friedrich became Crown Prince Friedrich William. Friedrich was liberal in his political views, uncharacteristic for the Hohenzollerens. He opposed Count von Bismark throught his long term as Chancellor.

Princess Royal Victoria

It was Albert who first conceived of the idea of a love mairrage between his favorite child--Vicky, the Prince Royal, and Friedrich, although his Uncle King Leopold may well have ensired it. Vicky was a lively intelligent girl. Prince Albert even took time to tutor her himself. The Princess came from a lively, happy family where cukture and liberal values were nutured--in sharp contrast to his own family. Albert who was not impressed with the Prince's education, would lecture him at every opportunity. At first it may have been flatering to the Prince, but much of it appears to have mistified him and eventually he appears to ave objected to it. Prince Albert was often critical of Prussian policies. Friedrich in 1855 was invited to stay with the English royal family at Balmoral, this time without his parents. He had permission to prpose to Vicky. Vicky was only 14, but rather percocious. I'm not sure how she was briefed by her parents. Fridrich proposed and Vicky accepted. Had Fridrich not died prematurely, this could have well been the most important mairrage in the 19th century. As Vicky was only 14, the engagement was not announced, although the press soon learned of it.

Marriage

Prince Friedrich on January 25, 1858, at St. James Palace, London, England mairred to Victoria Adelaide Mary Wettin, Princess Royal (Queen Victoria's eldest daughter). Victoria had insisted on a London wedding. The mairrage was the centerpiece of Queen Victoria and the British Government's policy of weaving a pattern of family relationships with major royal families of Europe. The Queen and Princess Royal dreamed of araising a family of German princes with liberal English democratic views. Unfortunately for the future of Europe, it was not to be. Prince Freidrich was a man of learing and culture, Friedrich and his wife, the English Princess Royal Victoria, patronized art and literature and encouraged the work of the royal museums. Friedrich and Victoria shared the liberal principles represented by the constitutional English monarchy.


Figure 1.--Queen Victoria's first child Vicky mairred German Crown Prince Friedrich. Their first son was William who is pictured here with his Aunt Beatrice--Victoria's youngest sister. The two quarled as children, mostly when Wilhelm was naughty. This is the same Kaiser Wilhelm II who led Germany to war in 1914. I think the drawing is by Victoria.

Children

Friedrich and Victoria had eight children, four boys and four girls. The best known of course is Prince Wilhelm who suceeded his father as Wilhelm II after his father's untimely death. The size of the family was remarkable given Victoria's near death at Wilhem's birth.

Fatherhood

Friedrich appears to have been a very engaged father. He spent much more time with his children than his father had spent with him. He was delighted with Wilhelm. Friedrich delighted in carrying the baby around the palace showing him off to everyone. The Prince wrote an aunt, "... in his clear blue eyes we can already see signs of sparking intelligence." Surely Victoria incouraged her husband to spebd time with the children as she did. Also important was that because of the Danzig incident, the King and Bismarck did their best to keep him away from official duties. Friedrich was interested in ancient and medieval history and archeology and loved to tell stories to the children and show them pictures in books. Wilhelm was apparently fascinated. Wilhelm expressed his hopes of restoring the German Empire that had existed in medieval Europe. He loved to take the chilodren on outings and to visit relatives.

Family Routine

The Crown Prince's children grew up in a warm family ebnvironment. The childtren while at home normally ate breakfast with their parents. Ye younger children would be brought to their parents room at 7:00 am while thery were still in bed having a cup of tea and toast. The children remember their mother as very busdy. Their second daughter, Vicyoria, however remembers that their mother always made time for them as children. [Victoria, My Memoirs, p.4.]

Family Seasonal Routine

The Crown Prince and his family spent winters in Berlin. The summers were normaly spent at Potsdam. There was usually a holiday to England during July and August so Vickie could see her family and the princes and princes could meet their English cousins. They also occasionally visited the Nethetrlands during the summer. The sea air was at the time considered very healthy for the children.

The Royal Family's Impact on Fahion

We know that Queen Victoria had a huge impact on children's fashion because of the way she dressed the princes. The British royal family was senn as a model family and helped revive the image of the monarchy in Britain as well as affect other matters such as children's fashions. The question becomes what impact did the German royal family on children's fashions in Germany. We are not at all sure about this. It is possible that they had an importanyt impact. Kaiser Wilhelm;s mother did dress the young prince in sailor suits and we know that sailor suits became very popular in Germany. Thus could have been a factor in popularizing the sailor suit in Germany. The problem is here that we are not familar with the German literature which may have disussed such matters. There are of course differences between the two royal fsmilies. Kaiser Wilhelm's mother was the British Princess Royal. She was seen by some Germans as foreign, I'm less sure about the general public. (Of course Victoria's husband was German, but he seems to have gradually overcome the foreign image. Princess Victoria seems to have had more difficulty here.) Another factor is that except for a very brief period Fridrich was not the reining kaiser, but the crown prince, not always on the best relations with his father. Thus we are not at all sure how the family affected German children's fashion.

Bismarck

Both Friedrich and Victoria disliked Count Otto von Bismarck and his conservative, anti-democratic policies. Bismarck felt Friedrich a weakling and under the influence of the English Princess Victoria whom he distrusted, but condidered more intelligent than Friedrich. He was probably correct in this assessment. He also was convinced that Friedrich did not have the strength to fight for his principals. [Ludwig, p. 217.] Friedrich resented Bismarck's influence over his father. Friedrich's liberalism in part severly impaired his ability to influence his conservative father. Friedrich only took a public stance once against the Government and his father almost had him arrested. Bismarck advised against it, reasoning that it would make the young prince martyr to the liberal cause. [Ludwig, p. 217.] The two are not unable to cooperate such as when the united to convince King Wilhelm to make a magnamious peace with Austria in 1866. [Ludwig, pp. 288-289.] The distruct and dislike each other troughout Friedrich's life. Bismarck for his part dustrusted both Friedrich and Victoria. "They are preparing for treason. Rhey have not a trace of German feeling, they have lost their footing in the heart of the people, they foment disciord among the members of the family." He also says, "My old master [meaning Wilhelm I] was fully aware of his dependence. He used to say: 'Help me; you know very well that I am under petticoat government [meaming his wife Augusta].' But this man [meaning Friedrich] is too proud to admit as much. In certain respects, he is a dependant ans submissive as a dog. ; you'd hardly believe to what extent." [Ludwig, p. 561.] Friedrich believed that some day he could discharge Bismarck, but his farher lives to such an advance age that he is unavle to do so even when he becomes Kaiser for a few months in 1888.

Wars with Denmark, Austria, and France

Bismarck's 1864 war with Denmark was a prelude to the war with Austria. Although opposed to the war with Austria in 1866, Friedrich assumed command of the Prussian Army in the Austro-Prussian War (1866). He led the Prussian forces to victory at the battle of Sadowa ending the short 7 weeks War. German and Friedrich's opinion was different in the Franco-Prussian War. Bismarck manuevered so that Napoleon III foolishly declared war on Prussia. Friedrich commanded the forces of the sothern German states. He participated in the Battle of Sedan and the seige of Paris. These wars made possible the creation of the German Empire which Friedrich did support.

Creation of the German Empire

Under the auspices of Prussia, its largest state, Germany was united into a federal system in 1871. The resulting combination consisted of 22 states and the 3 former city-states or urban republics of Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck. Kaiser Wilhelm served as the first emperor of the unified Germany which was referred to as the Second Reich. Although outwardly Imperial Germany was the most poweful country in Europe, the imperial ediface had some basic weaknesses. Bismark's brilliance had succeeded had enabled a Prussian landed military caste to unify Germany and attempt to impose its martial values and ethos on the new state. From the beginning, however, the Prussians who maintained their hold on political power were threatened from economic both above and below. Imperial Germany also had major foreign policy concerns. The German Empire was situated between the Russian collosus and a France through the seizure of Alsace-Loraine that was an implaccable enemy. This structure lasted until 1918 when Germany lost extensive portions of territories to France, Poland, Belgium, Denmark and Czechoslovakia.

The Year of Three Emperors

For the Hohenzollern family and the politics of the First Reich, the year 1888 was the year of the three Emperors. Kaiser Wilhelm I died on March 9. Friedrich suffered from cancer of the larynx. His poor health and untimely death were to have a profound impact on the future of Germany and Europe at large. His reign lasted only 99 days. Friedrich III died on June 15, 1888. His oldest son, the 29-year old Crown Prince became Kaiser Wilhelm II. His reign proved to be disastrous for Germany.

Sources

Ludwig, Emil. Bismarck: The Story of a Fighter (Little Brown, Boston, 1927), 661p.

Victoria, Princess of Prussia, My Memoirs (Eveleigh: Nash, 1929).







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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 7:50 PM 10/30/2008